||15 May 2011 07:00
|Show: ||Carte Blanche|
It's 2010 and the whaling season in Antarctica: a protesting boat clashes with a Japanese whaler.
Pete Bethune (Founder: EarthRace Conservation Organisation): "Last year in Antarctica we probably cost whalers about 250 whales."
Martyn Stewart (Volunteer): "Pods of 120... 140-strong family units are massacred in the most barbaric way."
Stuart Kershaw (Volunteer): "The greatest thing I've learnt due to my involvement in Pete's earth project is the quite genuine threat to fish stocks in the Indian and the Atlantic."
Tattooed, with a shaved head and a worthy cause, many would say Pete Bethune is your typical New Zealander looking to save the world.
Pete: "I spent four years travelling the oceans, and increasingly became concerned about all the illegal and stupid activities that are effectively raping our seas."
With degrees in science and engineering and an MBA, Bethune is not your average academic. He was part of the controversial Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, which uses in-your-face tactics to prevent the Japanese from whaling in Antarctic waters.
It was Bethune who was piloting the boat that was rammed by an 800 tonne Japanese whaler while trying to prevent them from catching whales. And as if that wasn't enough, he boarded the whaler from a jetski in darkness, aiming to arrest the captain. For his efforts he spent four months in prison in Japan.
Last year Bethune left Sea Shepherd to start an EarthRace Conservation Organisation or ECO for short.
Pete: "The focus of EarthRace is what I'd consider under-developed or developing economies that at the moment are ignoring their fisheries."
A very different approach from that used at Sea Shepherd.
Pete: "The fisheries are well down their list of priorities and these governments are ignorant to it, or they just put their head in the sand and they ignore it."
Pete says both Africa and Latin America are magnets for unsustainable fishing practice. He's chosen Cape Town as a base for his African operations - from where he intends targeting neighbours in southern Africa, where he believes marine resources are at the mercy of foreign fishing vessels.
Pete: "I see our job is to change that; our job is to make these governments aware of what's happening in their own fisheries and backyard."
It's this type of activist approach that draws the volunteers. People like veteran international sound recordist Martyn Stewart.
Martyn: "In December of last year, 2010, I went down to Taiji - the scene for the filming of 'The Cove'... some of the most barbaric, gruesome crimes against nature I think I've ever seen in my life."
Stewart says recording the death of thousands of dolphins wasn't easy...
Martyn: "I dropped a couple [of] hydrophones into the water to record this pod of probably 120. I recorded stages of the size of the pod, so I've got the sounds of these dolphins' stress calls under water... all the way to the last dolphin that was slaughtered - when all that was left was crustaceans and snapping shrimps."
While Martyn helps out wherever he's needed, the serious camerawork for EarthRace is done by Stuart Kershaw - admittedly more adrenaline junkie than environmentalist.
Stu: "Yes, I've got a tendency to be drawn to adrenaline-type adventures, and this is no exception."
But Stuart isn't just chasing fun:
Stu: "What I think is quite unique about the modern digital age is that anybody like Pete is able to get a core team of filmmakers together who can produce material that genuinely does threaten the status quo."
When asked if his approach really makes a difference, Bethune points to EarthRace's first mission earlier this year - to Trinidad, where he wishes to end the turtle hunting.
Pete: "So we met with the ministers of fisheries and environment and presented the case that Trinidad cannot present itself as capital of the turtle-watching around the globe, and at the same time be hunting and killing these turtles."
Bethune says they showed the ministers a turtle they'd bought for $100 - it had been lying on its back in the sun while the fisherman waited for a buyer.
Pete: "The turtle lifted its head up - it was upside down - it looked around... and you saw this pussy eye... looked around, noticed the minister, a few people... then it closed its eye and the head collapsed back down. And the minister was like, 'Oh my!' and he said to me, 'How often does this happen?' I said, 'You've got 150 turtles being treated like this every day in your country.'"
Back in Africa, Pete Bethune is concerned at the almost annual slaughter of seals in Namibia. He visited the well-known colony at Cape Cross.
Pete: "Amazingly too, up at the top there they have a sign that says: 'Please help us to conserve the environment and do not walk off the walkway'. And yet they're going to kill 90 000 of these things with clubs... such a shame for an extraordinary place."
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